Data centers are large consumers of energy. But owners and managers are still surprised when they learn about the scope of this consumption. According to US Department of Energy, data centers account for 2 percent of the total US electricity use. That’s a huge amount of power.
Expending the Right Kind of Energy
As technology encompasses more of our lives, the thirst for data center power will only increase. So the largest data center owners like Facebook, Google, Microsoft and others are looking for innovative ways to cut down energy consumption. Research institutes are also trying to come up with interesting solutions to save power.
Here are five ways data centers are reducing their energy footprint:
Virtualization is an effective method for saving power. With direct physical server use, there is a lot of wastage in terms of processor, memory, and storage. It’s very difficult to assign the exact amount of resources to an application when requirements change.
With virtualization, a facility can easily scale up and down the number of servers for a particular application, so server resources are not wasted. Data centers can serve more applications with fewer physical servers. It leads to energy savings.
Using Better Hardware Architectures
Data centers can decrease their energy cost through getting rid of older inefficient equipment and keeping their firmware and software up-to-date. But researchers are looking into more advanced options in hardware architecture. Princeton’s Piton 25-core manycore processor recognizes, groups and processes similar computational tasks and executes them back to back. It means less energy is lost in computational overhead. It can increase data center efficiency by 20 percent.
Downgrading to Low-Energy Memory
Data centers rely on the speed of dynamic random access memory (DRAM). However, DRAMs are also power hungry. Data centers can substitute DRAMs with Flash-based memories which are cheaper and require less energy. Flash energy consumption is one-twentieth of DRAM.
However, Flash is a slower technology. Data centers need to perform a cost-benefit analysis to see if it can be a viable option. Also, there are advanced strategies like Bluecache, where data centers can mix DRAM and Flash memories to create a better balance between speed and power consumption.
Using Renewable Energy
The use of renewable energy in data centers is a double-edged sword. Research indicates that unreliable and variable solar and wind power can increase electricity consumption.
The power variations in renewable energy sources can slow down processors and make computer programs run longer. Processors have overhead costs. So longer process times mean higher energy bills. Companies can offset the problem through proactively designing for variable green energy sources.
Using Innovative Cooling Systems
Heat is one of the culprits in data center energy usage. Companies use cooling systems to maintain optimum server temperatures. These cooling systems account for 40 percent of total data center energy use. So enterprises are looking into new ways to save money.
Microsoft is experimenting with underwater facilities. The self-contained data centers would be located below the ocean surface. Water will be used to regulate the temperature. Google also uses water to lower their power costs. Google data centers use networks of water pipes that carry the heat away from the facilities. They use 50 percent less energy than other similar sized centers.
Of course, it’s necessary to first take care of the fundamentals of regular maintenance for data center efficiency. But you can try out the above techniques if you want to take your energy savings to the next level.